Coming of Age of The ‘Nigerian Used’

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Nigerian youths are highly creative and innovative, writes Kunle Jenrola

The Nigerian Youths are, easily, one of the most troubled or, more charitably, most tested mass of people in the world. From the challenges of unemployment through stymied competitive edge to lack of basic social opportunities, their afflictions are rankling.

Unlike their counterparts in other climes where the necessities of life for a secure future, are inalienable, the lot of the Nigerian Youth to access the barest benefits of citizenship is unflattering. In the midst of all these, their self-confidence is as shaken as a reputation that’s being bashed by those who created their misery.

They are labeled as criminally minded, “Yahoo boys”, and disparaged as “lazy” louts. Yet, they have remained valiantly resilient in confronting these ordeals.
Ironically, their capacity to toil without intermission and bear their burden uncomplainingly is often mistaken for docility. As if to shake off this odium, they have, sometimes, been driven to adopt extreme survivalist measures such as embarking on perilous journeys across the inclement terrains; all in a bid to reach “greener pastures”.

Unfortunately, their woes are multiplied when, as illegal migrants, they are lured and enslaved by unscrupulous elements, into prostitution and drug peddling resulting in imprisonment or death.
Out of desperation to survive at home, they have been used and abused by politicians to violently rig elections. They are also routinely used and abused cheaply in the lean labour market. Largely, however, our youths who have been on a seemingly never- ending journey to self-discovery are adjudged highly creative and innovative.

Think of their exploits in the fields of entertainment and Information Technology(IT) and you’d recall their positive impact on the employment index and the GDP. According to recent statistics of Nigeria’s GDP, the entertainment and media industry is expected to rise from $4.46 billion in 2018 to $10.5 billion market by the end of 2023.

In spite of all these, they were yet to earn their respect as a formidable power source. This is probably because they have stayed aloof from organized politics and seemed content with eking out an existence; getting a relief by keeping abreast with fashion, music and Reality TV trends. And, this apolitical or lethargic status quo would have remained until their confined space began to shrink further through an incursion by the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad.(SARS) which may have become part of a ash-heap of history due to youth restiveness.

So, like a bear goaded on all sides, it’s time to call up their God-given zest of unstinting resistance to discomforts. Finally, the “Lazy Youths” have become a bounding dynamo of energy. They have discovered their niche and found their voice in: “SARSMUSTEND”!

“Sharp(er)ly” as the youths would say, a rallying battle cry #ENDSARS, was coined to air their grievances on the infringement of their space and fundamental human rights by a corrupt and murderous Special Anti-Unit of the Nigeria Police Force.

Need I recall that at the ignoble height of the SARS operations, youths were profiled as crime suspects, arrested, turtured, extorted and murdered for no more justifiable reason than their “youthful appurtenance”: flashy cars, dropping pants, tattooed body, ear studs and other bizarre fashion statements.

Apparently harangued by more challenges than they could cope with including the economic debilitation of the Coronavirus pandemic, it was time to confront their fears in the streets. Today, in the year 2020AD- the age of “New Normal”, the vilified youths of Nigeria have, for many long days, created a “NewNormal” by stringing the delicate web of a patterned coalesence of dissimilar ideals and backgrounds into a united and wholesome purpose of a New Nigeria through unprecedented protests on major streets in many state capitals.

It’s amazing how these so-called lackadaisical and laidback youths have perfected the art of “uncoordinated coordination” defined by the sustenance of their dexterous management of a “leaderless” and “cashless” but spontaneous protests.

By the way, herein lies the “New Normal” protest strategy which contrasts with the nationalist and students protests of the days of yore where the presence of identifiable leaders and paucity of funds had encumbered those movements.

By the sheer sophisticated simplicity of their conduct, these young and not- so -young protesters have raked up the nostalgia of the nationalist struggles of the pre- independence era where neither tongue, tribe or religion mattered in the fight against colonialism.

How about the magical realism of an organic cooperation that ensured a largely peaceful protest characterised by a refusal to be provoked to violence by invading hoodlums or policemen who killed some protesters in the process. lt is also a novelty of the current momentum that food, prayer walks and ambulance services are a regular character of the protests.

Indeed, the articulate toga of the Nigerian Youth was revealed by their transparent fund raising savvy which has not only ensured a steady supply of food and drinks but hired private security to make up for a shortfall of police protection.
Words have filtered out on their traits of empathy even for some uniformed men who were given food and drinks aided by the raising of support funds for less privileged citizens including” a groundnut hawker”.

The question now is: what do the youths really want? Their demand, quite concise and focus, are trained on how to bring an end to the symbolic “SARS” through justice for the victims of police brutality, prosecution of erring SARS operatives, release of arrested protesters, and reforms in the security architecture including increased pay packets. You cannot miss the persuasive articulation of the SARS metaphor as a vehicle of progressive intellectual interrogation of a myriad of the Nigerian question such as addressing the infrastructural deficit and restructuring.

It would be interesting to see how they will take the sonorous sound of reforms in the public sector to the brim from the crescendo of the ENDSARS catchphrase.
Surely, they would need a great deal of communications expertise, which is not only about oratorical skill, to break through a carapace of indifference of the old order.
Since this non-violent movement is rightly founded on sheer force of superior reasoning typified by a dialogic approach, it’s time to oil their strategy for a more challenging phase of the struggles. The Youths, most of whom sound impressively exposed to the fine points of consensus building and negotiation techniques should not lose sight of the demands of the complexity and dynamics of power.

They should be careful not to trivialize their emancipation by betraying a lack of initiative on the use of power. According to renowned Psychologist, Dacher Keltner’s, “The Power Paradox”, enduring power comes from empathy and its paradox lies in the fact that “power is given to us by other people”.
In other words, if the other Nigerians have supported the Youth protests at the expense of personal discomfort and loss of income through disrupted businesses, then, enormous responsibility rests squarely on their shoulders to use the power to everyone’s advantage.

“Any misunderstanding of the behaviors that helped us to gain power in the first place will set us up for a fall from power.”, Keltner quips. Again, the admonition of Robert Greene’s “The 48 Laws of Power” that “power has its own rhythm and patterns” and, as such, victors should “learn when to stop” is worthy of appraisal. It could be interpreted as an initiative deficit to give an impression that they intend to stay on the streets perpetually. A second phase of the struggle should begin to kick in.

“Too much presence”, according to Greene’s Laws of Power, “may create the opposite effect.” As this second law of power suggests, a varied strategy can be used to increase respect and honour.
The more you ‘re seen and heard from, he says ,”the more your value degrades. ––Jenrola sent this piece shortly before the Lekki shootings.